Saturday, November 29, 2008

8a 11/29 Update: Astronauts pack for landing Sunday

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CBS NEWS STS-126 STATUS REPORT: 80
Posted: 8:00 AM, 11/29/08

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Analyst

Changes and additions:

   SR-78 (11/28/08): Final shuttle separation burn delayed to avoid close encounter with Russian satellite debris
   SR-79 (11/28/08): Sarafin pleased with mission; delayed rocket firing no problem for Picosat deploy; landing weather iffy for Sunday
   SR-80 (11/29/08): Astronauts prepare for Sunday landing

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8:00 AM, 11/29/08, Update: Astronauts pack for landing

Keeping tabs on threatening weather, the Endeavour astronauts are working through what they hope will be their last full day in orbit, stowing equipment and testing the shuttle's re-entry systems before landing Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center to close out a 16-day space station assembly mission.

Returning space station flight engineer Gregory Chamitoff will make the trip home resting on his back in a reclining seat on the shuttle's lower deck to ease his return to the unfamiliar tug of Earth's gravity after six months in space. The astronauts were awakened today just before 5 a.m. by a recording of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" beamed up by mission control from Chamitoff's family.

"Good morning everyone," Chamitoff called. "Thank you for that song, that was great. It reminds me of home, it reminds me of my kids, who I've been thinking about so much lately. We sing that song together very often going to bed, so that's great, thanks for that and thanks to my family for sending that music to play for me this morning.

"We're all thinking about going home," he said. "It's going to be a great day, a last great day in space for everyone. We're looking forward to this day and enjoying the rest of our time up here. Thinking of home, it's been great to have an amazing home away from home for the past, uh, my watch is telling me that it'll be 182 days for me away from home. A lot of people have to spend time away from home, but I've been lucky to have a really spectacular place to live for the past half year.

"I'm very proud that all of us here are leaving the space station a better, more spectacular place than it was when we arrived. So thanks a lot, good morning everybody and looking forward to a great day in space."

While the rest of the crew packs up, shuttle commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Eric Boe and flight engineer Stephen Bowen plan to check out the shuttle's re-entry systems in a standard day-before-landing test, firing up one of the ship's hydraulic power units and test firing their steering rockets.

The entire crew - Ferguson, Boe, Bowen, Chamitoff, Don Pettit, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Robert "Shane" Kimbrough - will review re-entry procedures just after noon and then field questions from reporters in a final set of round-robin interviews starting at 12:40 p.m.

At 3:35 p.m., Ferguson and Boe will launch a small Department of Defense research satellite called the Pico Satellite Solar Cell Testbed, which will test new solar power technology. The two pilots then will take turns practicing landing procedures with a computer simulator and a bit later, Chamitoff's recumbent seat will be set up on the shuttle's lower deck.

Endeavour appears to be in good shape for landing with no technical problems of any significance. A final inspection of the ship's reinforced carbon carbon nose cap and wing leading edge panels was carried out after undocking Friday and no obvious problems were seen. An update on the results of a detailed engineering analysis will be presented today at 2:30 p.m., after NASA's daily Mission Management Team meeting.

The astronauts will have two opportunities to land in Florida on Sunday, the first at 1:19 p.m. and the second at 2:54 p.m. NASA also plans to staff Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. Two landing opportunities are available at Edwards Sunday, at 4:24 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.

The Spaceflight Meteorology Group at the Johnson Space Center issued a forecast at 7:10 p.m. Friday that called for a chance of thunderstorms within 30 nautical miles of the Florida runway and higher-than-allowable crosswinds because of a cold front expected to move across the state.

The forecast for Monday called for a possible deck of broken clouds at 5,000 feet and high crosswinds. Conditions were expected to improve by Tuesday. The forecast for Edwards called for good weather Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The shuttle has enough on-board supplies to stay in orbit until Tuesday, when it would have to land one way or the other. Entry flight director Bryan Lunney will brief reporters on his landing strategy at 4:30 p.m. today.

Here is an updated timeline of today's activity (in EST and mission elapsed time; includes revision O of the NASA television schedule):

EST........DD...HH...MM...EVENT

11/29/08
04:55 AM...14...09...00...Crew wakeup
08:10 AM...14...12...15...Cabin stow begins
09:40 AM...14...13...45...OBSS berthing
10:45 AM...14...14...50...Flight control system checkout
11:55 AM...14...16...00...Reaction control system hotfire
12:10 PM...14...16...15...Deorbit review
12:40 PM...14...16...45...Media interviews
01:00 PM...14...17...05...Crew meal
02:00 PM...14...18...05...Cabin stow resumes
02:05 PM...14...18...10...Landing comm checks
02:30 PM...14...18...35...Post-MMT briefing on NTV
03:35 PM...14...19...40...Picosat deploy
04:30 PM...14...20...35...Mission status briefing on NTV
04:55 PM...14...21...00...Robot arm powerdown
04:50 PM...14...20...55...Ergometer stow
03:55 PM...14...20...00...PILOT landing simulator practice
05:20 PM...14...21...25...Recumbent seat setup
05:50 PM...14...21...55...Launch/entry suit checkout
05:45 PM...14...21...50...KU antenna stow
05:55 PM...14...22...00...Wing sensor system deactivation
06:15 PM...14...22...20...Laptop computers stowed
08:55 PM...15...01...00...Crew sleep begins
09:00 PM...15...01...05...Flight day 16 highlights

11/30/08
04:55 AM...15...09...00...Crew wakeup
06:45 AM...15...10...50...Progress docking coverage on NTV
07:30 AM...15...11...35...Group B computer powerup
08:15 AM...15...12...20...Deorbit timeline begins
12:14 PM...15...16...19...Deorbit ignition (rev. 248)
01:19 PM...15...17...24...Landing, runway 15, KSC

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Quick-Launch Web Links:

CBS News STS-126 Status Reports:
http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/current.html

CBS News STS-126 Quick-Look Page:
http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/currentglance.html

NASA ISS Expeditions Page:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/index.html

NASA Shuttle Web: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/index.html
NASA Station Web: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/index.html
Spaceflight Now: http://spaceflightnow.com/index.html
GoogleSatTrack: http://www.lizard-tail.com/isana/tracking/

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